Holy Thursday (Jn 13:1–17, 31b–35; 1 Cor 11:23–32)

March 24, 2016
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO


Here we are deep in holy week, and there’s white on the altar? Really? Holy Week is like Lent on steroids. More repentance. More sorrow for sin. We’ve already put away our alleluias, we’ve put away our “Glory be to God on High,” and because it’s such a solemn time we don’t even say our “Glory be to the Father.” But not tonight. As good Lutherans, we just can’t help ourselves. Doing these things are good. They help teach the faith. So why lay some of them aside? Well, it all comes down to what we celebrate tonight! It’s all about what Jesus gives us. What sorrow can we have with a gift that some call Eucharist, that is, “Thanksgiving”? Jesus delivers His own body and blood. That’s what were given to expect and receive from the Lord. It’s how our Lord serves us, and when our Lord serves and we receive His service, we then know Him as He is.


(I. Jesus is the Servant.)

How do you think of Jesus? Is He Lord? Teacher? Friend? Master? God? Surely He’s all those things. He says so: “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.” Yet, He doesn’t seek to be served. He doesn’t want any such thing from you. As He says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He is the Servant, the Slave. He washes feet! The lowest of the lowest task. He is that sort of servant for you. He is the Suffering Servant. He serves even to death. His “hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” He is Servant even to death on a cross. “Having loved His own, He loved them to the end.” He does the lowest thing He can. He dies for His enemies. “He dies for the ungodly,” as Paul says. He dies in a humiliating way to save. Nothing is too low for Him. He is the Chief Slave and Servant. That’s God for you. That’s knowing God perfectly: though He’s the God and Lord of all, He becomes the slave and servant of all.

(II. Jesus serves you.)

Now, dear Christian, you know what you’re given to receive and expect from Servant-Slave Jesus. SALVATION! He serves His salvation to you. Now, let’s not be like Peter and deny His wanting to serve us with His gifts. That’s old Adam talk. “You shall never do that!” But to this Jesus simply says, “If I don’t serve you, you have no part in me. If you put off My gifts, want to do your own thing with them, only receive them how you want, then you’re not one of Mine.” His serving us is His love. In His serving us again and again and again, He showers His love upon us. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” His love must come to us for us to be able to pass that on to one another, and His love comes to us as He serves us with His gifts. Tonight, we remember the great gift of His body and blood given to us in His Supper that He instituted on the night in which He was betrayed.

Servant Jesus serves what He wills to us. It is His body and His blood. Servant Jesus’ Word gives what He says. We simply receive His body and blood. His Word is spoken over the bread and wine, and the bread and wine are what He says they are: His body and blood. He gives this, puts it into our hands and mouths, and in this way we receive. It is as He says: “This is my body which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Gift given. We receive. “Amen.” Gift received!

He serves this gift to whom He wills. “Let a person examine himself, then,” as Paul says. Now, let’s not add our own work to things. Are you ready enough? Have you examined enough? Of course you are! As we’ve been taught about such things: “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’” That’s it. As Luther teaches us about Paul’s words. We don’t add our work, our merit, our worthiness, our preparation to the Lord’s gifts. As Paul says in another place, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So it is with the Lord’s gifts that deliver the grace to you. For this reason they are called “means of grace.” Not ways to earn grace. Pure gift. When we add our own ways of things to Jesus’ service, we add doubt, unbelief, as Luther also teaches, “anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared.” Jesus is quite clear: “Body, blood for you…for the forgiveness of your sins.” Pure gift! Gift given. We receive.“Amen.” Gift received!

This receiving proclaims His death until He comes, as Paul says. It proclaims His death because it delivers the fruit of His death. It delivers forgiveness. We proclaim Jesus’ death each time we receive His body and His blood. The body and blood that was given and shed on the cross. You can’t quite go to Calvary to get it. Servant Jesus brings it to you. He gives you, dear Christian, the very thing that we proclaim as we eat. “His body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” We proclaim Him with one voice and confession of faith, and so we partake of His body and blood together. Other confessions need not apply.

Tonight we lay aside the Lenten rules! How can we not?!? White in Lent. Our Glory bes. Sure! Why? Jesus’ body and blood that’s why! That’s what Servant Jesus wants you to expect and receive from Him. He says it Himself, “This is My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” He serves you that salvation on a silver platter, well paten. Anyway, it’s all gift for you. Freely and wonderfully given. Jesus serves. You receive. “Amen.” Gift received! And whenever you do, it is then that you know God perfectly.


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